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Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Symphonic Poems, Vol. 4
No. 9: Hungaria, S103, (1848-54) [21:52]
No. 8: Héroïde funèbre (Heldenklage), S102 (1848-50, rev.1854)
No. 2: Le Triomphe funèbre du Tasse, S112, No.3 (1866) [13:05]
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra/Michael
rec. 30 May-1 June 2005, Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington,
New Zealand. DDD
NAXOS 8.557847 [58:16]
This is volume 4 of the Naxos project to record all the symphonic
poems of Franz Liszt. Fourteen of them have now been recorded
and although we are not told as much this must be the final
volume. The first three, also conducted by Halász, are available
on Naxos 8.550487; 8.553355 and 8.557846.
Liszt was the composer primarily responsible for
creating the genre of the symphonic poem. His single-movement
orchestral works were written primarily in the 1840s and
1850s. In the symphonic poem the score is programmatic, developing
material that is pictorial, literary or even based on an
idea that suggests an emotion or scene in musical terms.
Liszt had first made sketches for his symphonic poem Hungaria in
1848 which was the year that the Hungarians rebelled against
their Habsburg rulers. Some of the material in the score
was taken from the earlier Heroic March in Hungarian Style for
piano from 1840. The score Hungaria was completed
in 1854 and first heard in 1856 in Pest with Liszt conducting.
Since the July revolution of 1830 in France, Liszt had been sketching
out a Revolution Symphony; a score that was never
completed. Material from the first movement was utilised
and revised by Liszt using the title Héroïde funèbre. Described
by biographer Humphrey Searle as, “a fine one-movement
funeral march of vast proportions …” the score was first
performed in Breslau in 1857.
Liszt had written the symphonic poem Tasso, lamento e trionfo in
1849 as a prelude to Goethe’s play Tasso. The score Le
Triomphe funèbre du Tasse (The Funeral Triumph of
Tasso) was composed by Liszt in 1866 to serve as an epilogue
to Tasso, lamento e trionfo. Liszt utilised Le
Triomphe funèbre du Tasse to serve as the final part
to his Trois Odes Funèbres. The ‘funeral ode’ was
dedicated to his Prussian friend Leopold Damrosch, conductor
of the New York Philharmonic Society concerts, where the
score was first performed in 1877.
The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra are in tremendous form
readings have an impressive breadth and an intelligent sense
of scale, tautly holding together the often inspiring orchestral
playing. The pictorialism of these interpretations is strikingly
graphic. Hungaria has containing a strong sense of
nationalistic fervour with convincingly menacing, warlike
episodes that evoke the horrors and carnage of the 1848-49
Hungarian uprisings. This patriotic struggle would have greatly
affected Liszt at the time. I love the way that Halász, who
I understand is himself Hungarian-born, brings the score
home to a triumphantly optimistic conclusion.
In the darkly sombre Héroïde funèbre, maestro
emphasises the sinister and often terrifyingly character
of this lengthy and dramatic funereal score. I was especially
impressed with the superbly performed introduction to the Héroïde
funèbre that convincingly sets the spine-chilling scene
with terrifying, martial drum rolls and braying trombones.
What struck me as remarkable about this assured reading of Le
Triomphe funèbre du Tasse was the richness of texture
and the precision of ensemble of his New Zealand players
of a standard
approaching what one would expect from a Berlin or Vienna
Orchestra. One cannot help but admire the way Halász gauges
the yearning and brooding sections at 2:19-7:06 and 9:29-12:11
with an impressive dignity and unshakable restraint.
I am not able to recommend any suitable versions
of Liszt’s Symphonic Poems from my own collection.
However, a recording likely to be encountered is the five
disc set of Franz Liszt: Works for Orchestra performed by
the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra under Kurt Masur on EMI
Classics 5745212. Another alternative that has been
recommended to me is the five disc set of Liszt’s complete
Symphonic Poems from the Budapest Symphony Orchestra under
Arpad Joó on Hungaroton HCD12677-81 and also on Brilliant
The sonics are crisp and cleanly recorded, and Keith Anderson’s
booklet notes are to the usual high standard. This
Naxos series has gone from strength to strength.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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